UH makes statement by defeating No. 15 Rice
Though his at-bat qualified as dramatic and the lights were just bright enough to make it seem like a movie, the slightly arching line drive that Caleb Barker hit to put the game out of No. 15 Rice’s reach was not what truly won the game for the Cougars. The pitching staff stole the show.
The senior catcher’s double to right field brought two teammates to the plate to extend the lead to 3-0, but UH (4-0) had already scored enough to take game one of the Silver Glove Series on Wednesday at Reckling Park. The offensive numbers took a backseat to a staff that pitched its third shut-out of the season to preserve the final 3-0 lead and made sure Rice head coach Wayne Graham’s 1,001st win did not come against the cross-town rival.
“I think it’s really incredible,” said Barker of the pitching staff. “They’re really making us go right now. Any time you can come out and keep a team from scoring, it’s really hard to lose.”
The game’s only other offense occurred after senior shortstop Frankie Ratcliff on a first-inning two-out RBI by senior first baseman Casey Grayson. Rice mustered only four hits and two walks during the game. UH’s starting pitcher Matt Locus, a left-handed junior transfer from San Jacinto College, lasted 3.2 innings before giving way to another lefty, senior reliever Tyler Ford. The two combined for four strikeouts and only two walks.
“Another outstanding job by the pitching staff,” said head coach Todd Whitting. “Locus goes out, you know, first career start at the Division I level in a big game. This is a big game for us. Not only is it Rice, our cross-town rival, but this is a road game against a ranked team. When you’re trying to build a resume for the future, this is a big one.”
Ford, who tied a career high in innings pitched, got his first win of the season. He defused Rice’s only real offensive display of the game, when they loaded the bases in the 4th inning, by striking out Rice shortstop Leon Byrd.
“There’s time where you know that you need to hit your spots and times where you just see if you can win the battle,” Ford said.
The effective nature of the pitching staff is something that, given its earlier status as a possible question mark, is a confidence booster and useful tool for UH.
“Really proud of the effort,” Whitting said. “Ford got a big strikeout with the bases loaded in the middle part of the game.”
Barker, who sees all the pitchers and their offerings, was equally impressed by the staff’s work.
“Locus came out today, pounding the strikezone. He really doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he’s really aggressive with everything he had.”